Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hopeful Post-Christmas Melancholy

-by Jon Bloom
Each year Christmas night finds members of my family feeling some melancholy. After weeks of anticipation, the Christmas celebrations have flashed by us and are suddenly gone. And we’re left standing, watching the Christmas taillights and music fade into the night.

But it’s possible that this moment of melancholy may be the best teaching moment of the whole season. Because as long as the beautiful gifts remain unopened around the tree and the events are still ahead of us, they can appear to be the hope we are waiting for. But when the tree is empty and events are past, we realize we are longing for a lasting hope.

So last night, as Pam and I tucked our kids into bed, we talked about a few things with them:

Gifts and events can’t fill the soul. God gives us such things to enjoy. They are expressions of his generosity as well as ours, but gifts and celebrations themselves are not designed to satisfy. They're designed to point us to the Giver. Gifts are like sunbeams. We are not meant to love sunbeams but the Sun.
Putting our hope in gifts will leave us empty. Many people live their lives looking for the right sunbeam to make them happy. But if we depend on anything in the world to satisfy our soul’s deepest desire, it will eventually leave us with that post-Christmas soul-ache. We will ask, “Is that all?” because we know deep down that’s not all there is. We are designed to treasure a Person, not his things.
It is more blessed to give than receive. What kind of happiness this Christmas felt richer, getting the presents that you wanted or making someone else happy with something that you gave to them? Receiving is a blessing, but Jesus is right—giving is a greater blessing. A greedy soul lives in a small, lonely world. A generous soul lives in a wide world of love.
It’s just like God to let the glitter and flash of the celebrations (even in his honor) to pass and then to come to us in the quiet, even melancholic void they leave. Because often that’s when we are most likely to understand the hope he intends for us to have at Christmas.


Why Do You Think Christianity Is True?

By: John Piper

Why do you think Christianity is true?
What compelling evidence do you see for it?

You can come at the truth of Christianity through several angles of apologetics and reasoning. Let me mention a few and tell you the one that is most existentially real for me.

1) One would be historical. I think arguments can be mounted that are solid and compelling—first for the existence of Jesus, and then for the death and the resurrection of Jesus—to give an account for why the apostles were the way they were after his death.

The arguments that Pannenberg and Evangelicals have developed for the resurrection of the dead—Who Moved the Stone?-type arguments—are strong and have helped many people get over the barrier. Because if Jesus has been raised from the dead, never to die again, and ascended into heaven, then we should take very seriously and credit what he said about himself. So that's one line of evidence.

2) A second line of evidence is called presuppositional. It says that without God and the Bible as an assumption all of our reasoning processes and all of our perceiving processes are not possible.

In other words, every time we start thinking and every time we start perceiving, something is happening in our heads which assumes something. And if you're going to have any kind of credible conversation about what you're thinking or about what you're seeing, then you are assuming certain laws of logic, causality, and existence which can't have any absolute significance unless they're rooted in God.

So everybody is talking nonsense, but hardly anybody will say, "We're all just animals talking nonsense." Even those who are total secular, naturalistic evolutionists don't like to be treated like animals.

When a dog barks, I don't assume he's writing poetry. But when a man puts poetry down, I assume he wants me to take him seriously as a human being who has serious meaning there. He doesn't like it if I say, "O that's just chicken scratch!" So he's assuming something unbelievably profound about the significance and the basis of what he's doing, which he couldn't do unless he had a Christian construction of God.

So that's the presuppositional angle. Here's the third one, and the last one that is most significant to me.

3) How do you, when you want to decide if someone's testimony or witness is true? You weren't there. There were no videos. There was no recording. And you have to decide whether what he's saying happened actually happened.

When I read the Bible, that's the way I feel I am. I'm reading Paul, say, the 13 letters of the Apostle Paul. And he's telling me he saw the Lord Jesus, that he was knocked off of his donkey on the Damascus road, saw the Lord Jesus, was commisioned by the Lord Jesus, and now is inspired by the Lord Jesus. And then he interprets all of that in terms of the gospel.

I've got to reckon, "Paul, are you a lunatic? Are you a liar? Or are you telling the truth?" (Those questions are usually used with Jesus: "Are you a lunatic, a liar, or the Lord?") I think it's a good argument, and I use it for the writers of the New Testament, not just for Jesus. I know that I've got Paul right here in my hand, and I want to know, "Are you crazy?"

So when I'm reading the Bible, whether it's the Gospel of John or Romans, I'm asking the question, "How can I credit what's here, both the testimony of the man and the portrait of Jesus?" And I think there is a light that stands forth from the text of the truthfulness of Jesus that is self-authenticating. And there is a kind of character for the writers that stands forth that is authenticating of their solidity and truthfulness, confirming that they're not lunatics or liars.

If somebody said to me today, "Just tell me in 30 seconds why you're a Christian," I would say, "The portrait that I see of Jesus Christ in the Gospels is self-authenticating to me. I cannot meet this man and have him speak like nobody else spoke and not believe him. He wins my trust."

And then if they say, "Ah, but how do you know that that person is not being created by somebody else?" Then I would say, "Then the person creating him is just as phenomenal, and they win my trust. And if they win my trust then they're not lying to me." The Apostle Paul is not a lunatic. I cannot read the 13 letters of Paul and think he's crazy or a liar.

So those two things:

-the self-authenticating portrait of Jesus Christ that I find in Scripture, and
-the character-endorsing way that the apostles write their books and reveal their own trustworthiness.

© Desiring God

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Doing Great!

Today we had a great update from Katelyn's pediatrician... she is gaining weight and her bilirubin levels are getting back to normal. Big sister Kalena also got checked out while she was there, and the doctor said that her cough and other symptoms were from a sinus infection, and not contagious! Which means that we were able to finally let Kalena spend some quality time with her new baby sister. Jenny got some great photos, too!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Katelyn Anna Lyon has arrived!

We're a bit late on the blog update, but unfortunately Kaiser Walnut Creek didn't have wi-fi! Katelyn was born at 2:14am on Sunday, November 29th! God was so merciful and gracious to provide a very quick delivery, family in town to take care of Kalena and Sara, and so many good friends to visit with while in the hospital.

In fact, really good friends of ours, Peter & Lisa Maclennan, had their daughter Emelia the day before us and were just a few steps away from us in the Mom & Baby wing! It was really fun sharing the joy of newborns together, and they were so cute when we put them next to each other in a bassinet.

Jenny and Katelyn are doing great at home, now, and we're so glad to be back together as a family. With flu season in full force, the hospital wouldn't let anyone under 14 or with any symptoms in the hospital, so we had to be without the girls for a couple of days, and that was the hardest thing!

Katelyn also has a little jaundice and she might have to be readmitted to the hospital if that doesn't improve. We will keep you up to date and try to post more pictures as we are able. We thank God for His goodness expressed through all your love and care for us!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reflections on Pregnancy

I am two days past my due date with "Pops." I am realizing more how these last days or even hours of pregnancy could be my last ever because of our desire to do foster care and adopt another child. There are certainly things I will miss about being pregnant. I will miss the extreme joy and excitement of taking a pregnancy test and doing a double take when it comes out positive. I will miss thinking about all the ways I could tell Justin, and I will miss the way his face danced with excitement every time I told him. I will miss that first ultrasound where you see a little heart and all it's chambers beating wildly. I miss the feeling of love for a little being you have not really ever seen, but who you come to know and think about constantly. I will miss the kicking, jabbing, turning, and rolling of a little one experimenting with her arms and legs inside me. I will miss the little hiccups that distract me just enough to not let me sleep. I love the looks of sympathy, compassion, and the smiles of joy that my belly bring to the faces of those around me in the neighborhood. I love the way people go out of their way for me in the grocery store, and all the questions about when I am due and if it is a boy or girl. I love the stories strangers randomly begin to tell me once they notice I am pregnant. I will miss the smile that brightens my day from the girl at the frozen yogurt store when I come in for the 5th night in a row.
I thank God for the wonderful pregnancy experiences I have had, and although it saddens me for it to come to an end, I can't wait for the joy of finally holding my new daughter in my arms!!

Thank You Jesus!

This year I have so much to be thankful for! With the delivery of our third little one coming soon, I can truly say I am so thankful for the three great pregnancies the Lord has given me. I am even thankful for the times of horrible morning sickness, that He used to grow and stretch me in ways I never imagined possible.
Because of my deeper understanding in the past few years of God's sovereignty, I can say I would be equally as grateful to Him had the outcomes of my pregnancies been different, if there had been trauma, pain, death, or sickness. God orchestrates the events and situations in our lives for our spiritual good. Every situation is a gift from Him to those who love Him and follow Him. The anxiety of not knowing what will happen with this little one inside of me can creep up ... will she be healthy? will she have the cord around her neck? will she even be alive at the end of the birth? Because God's ways are too high and lofty for us to even begin to comprehend, I can rest in the fact that He is sovern and whatever he wills to do, it will be for my good, for the baby's good, for Justin, Kalena and Sara's good. I praise God for that this Thanksgiving. I am thankful that I can relax no matter what happens, and I will give thanks to him in all situations. For those who love and follow him, there are none who have their days cut short, who have there heath taken away, or who are outside any situation that pleases God. God sends death, sickness, trials and tribulations for our good. It pleases Him. Earthly sorrow is can be very appropriate in a believer, but great joy, comfort and thanksgiving come with knowing God has caused all things.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kalena's First Recital

Kalena had her first recital last week. It was a "Reformation Recital" at our church, NorthCreek, and Kalena was the youngest participant.

As I stood on a chair in the back of the room to get a clear shot of my daughter's sweet face... I realized that I was fitting perfectly into the stereotypical "dad with a video camera" role. But, all of that faded away when Kalena spotted me and said with her loudest voice and biggest smile, "There's my Daddy! HI DADDY!!"

Unfortunately, I didn't get that part on camera, but I grabbed a few other clips and threw together a quick video over the weekend. It's crazy how easy it was to do... less than 2 hours.

Click here to view or download the video.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fall Festival / Halloween

Had to post a couple of pics from our evening tonight! We went to the Fall Festival at our church, and had a great time playing games, getting candy, and being silly.
Click a picture to see more!

Afterward, we did a bit of trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. The first two houses we went to had dogs... which completely terrified Kalena. Every house we went to she would say as we were walking up: "This house probably has a dog... Daddy, could you carry me?"

It was pretty cute.

Monday, October 5, 2009

There is Victory Over Anxiety!

Sometimes when things happens unexpectedly we can struggle with fully trusting the Lord. This is hard but can be overcome by dwelling and memorizing scripture. We can be more than victorious over anxiety with Jesus Christ and His spirit helping us to direct our thoughts to things that are true and pure, and helping us to put His living and active Word in our hearts.
Hebrews 4:12
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
The living word of God pierces our soul, sprit, and down to our joints and marrow. Wow! The marrow is the very center of your entire body... literally the center of your bones and the place your life giving blood is made! Your joints are also deeply entrenched into your bones and make every move of your body possible. God's word can change our entire being, our thoughts, desires, hopes, dreams, actions and entire disposition! What a powerful God we serve, and a powerful book we possess. Thank you God for this gift of such power, the power to change!

These are the verses I dwell on and memorize when I struggle to trust the Lord.
Isaish 26:3-4
"You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he
trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an
everlasting rock"
Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?"
Phillipians: 4:6-7 ...do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

It is cool to be able to know that God will give us everything we need, and if we don't have it, we don't need it...and He actually want's us not to have it. It is a hard concept but so peaceful when you finally are able to fully trust it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Memory Verses #1

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

2 Peter 1:3
seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence

Proverbs 11:14
Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.

Jeremiah 17:9
"The heart is more deceitful than all else
   And is desperately sick;

Romans 8:18
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Ephesians 4:29
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear

Matthew 12:34
For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.

Ephesians 4:1-3
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Colossians 3:12-17
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

Should I Give Money To Homless Panhandlers? -by John Piper

"Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you" (Matthew 5:42).

I confess, I have not always obeyed this command.

I'm a veteran urban-dweller. Having lived in an inner city neighborhood for 18 years, I've encountered many beggers and borrowers. Some I discerned as cons I have called out or waved off. Some I have hired to do work. Others I've given to because I felt the conviction of this text.

I've thought a lot about this command of Jesus over the years. I've discussed it with many. I think I know all the major reasons why not to give when someone asks. You don't want to encourage deception. You don't want to feed a chemical addiction. You don't want to contribute to someone's cycle of poverty. And there are many others.

But still this text unnerves and convicts me.

The reason is that Jesus doesn't give this command in the context of addressing how I can best facilitate transformation in someone else. He is telling me how I should respond to those who are making demands on me, either from explicitly evil motives or just plain out of their difficult situation. He is telling me how I ought to respond even when being taken advantage of.

* Do not resist the evil person, he says. Let him slap you twice. (v. 39)
* Give him more than he is suing you for. (v. 40)
* Do more than he is forcing you to do. (v. 41)
* Give to those who ask. (v. 42)
* Love your enemy. (v. 44)

Jesus is telling me to actively show kindness and radical generosity toward those who hate me or who are seeking to take advantage of me.

Really, Jesus? Isn't that rewarding sinful, or at least unhealthy, behavior?

Of course, I can think of Biblical examples that illustrate when it seems right to resist or flee an evil person in situations of theft, deception, abuse, persecution, war, etc. So when the Word speaks, I must listen carefully, and I must weigh all of his words.

But from the words Jesus speaks here, I think it applies more often and more broadly than I want it to. He does not let me off the hook easily. He tests my heart with such radical love. And in my heart I see my selfish, unloving impulses that do not want to part with my money, possessions, time, or convenience for needy or evil people. And I have a ready arsenal of noble-sounding rationales that conceal my sin, almost from myself.

What Jesus is calling me to is gospel love. It's the love that drove him to die for me with when I was still a weak, ungodly, sinful enemy of his (Romans 5:6-10). There is something about such over-the-top, radically generous love that is so different from the way the world loves that it reflects the Father's love for sinners. It's why Jesus calls us also to costly love. It is both an expression and picture of the gospel.
- John Piper

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Accountability Questions!

Heather's accountability questions for her small group.
Thanks Heather!!!

1. Have you spent daily time in the scripture and prayer?
2. Have you had any flirtatious or lustful attitudes, tempting thoughts, or exposed yourself to any explicit materials, which would not glorify God?
3. Have you been completely above reproach in your financial dealings with God and with man?
4. Have you spent quality relationship time with family and friends?
5. Have you shared the gospel with an unbeliever this week?
6. Have you told any half-truths or outright lies, or done something to place yourself in a better light to those around you?
7. Have you allowed any unwholesome talk, slander, gossip or hard words to pass your lips?
8. Have you taken care of your body through daily physical exercise and proper eating and sleeping habits?
9. Have you allowed any person or circumstance to rob you of your joy?
10. Have you lied in any of your answers today?

This is a list which CJ Mahaney included in his book "Why Small Groups" from something that Samuel Wesley used in the 1700's.

Introductory/Heart Condition Questions:
1) Have you peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ?
2) Do you desire to be told of your faults?
3) Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time, whatsoever is in our heart concerning you?
4) Consider! Do you desire that we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you?
5) DO you desire that, in doing this, we should become as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?
6) Is it your desire and design to be on this, and all other occasions, entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart, without exception, without disguise, and without reserve?

Weekly Accountability Questions:
1) What known sin have you committed since our last meeting?
2) What temptations have you met with?
3) How were you delivered?
4) What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Spiritual Care Plan

Assessment- Evaluate problem areas in your life. Choose one problem area to do a care plan on. What is the evidence that this is a problem in your life? Ask others to evaluate your life.

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
Diagnosis- What is the sin?

Heart Issue- What is the deeper heart problem?

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds."

Renewing your Mind and Renewing Your Actions:
(A) Outcome Identification (B) Action Plan

Renewing Your Mind-
A. How does your mind/heart need to change in order for your actions to change? How can your thinking in this area glorify the Lord?
B. What is your plan to make that change happen? This will always include making a list of scriptures and scripture reading and/or memorizing. How will you be held accountable for renewing your mind? Are there any books to read or sermons to listen to on this specific sin?

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Psalm 119:11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.

Renewing your Actions-
A. Summarize what your life should look like in this area and in what time frame.
B. What specific things will you do to accomplish the desired outcome and when.

I Corinthians 9:27 I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Evaluation- How is it going? Do you need to change your plan? Was your outcome identification realistic? Are you being successful to renew your mind? Are you beginning to think differently?


Spiritual Care Plan: Laziness- By Jennifer Lyon, 2008

Assessment: I am a stay at home mom with only two children who are very good and easy children. My house is not clean. My to do list is long and has been that way for a long time. I start things and don’t finish them. I procrastinate my household chores. My husband isn’t getting the attention I should be giving him, his laundry is often not done and ironed when he needs it.

Diagnosis- Laziness.

Heart issue- Selfishness

Renewing my Mind:
A. Outcome Identification
My heart should desire, every minuet of every day, to be fruitful and effective for the Lord’s Kingdom more than I desire to appease my flesh and do things that are “idol” or have no eternal value.
I should desire to love and serve my family above having my own time of rest and relaxation.

B. Action Plan
I will read through the scriptures every morning that pertain to laziness and glorifying God with my time. I will have my accountability partner hold me accountable to doing this.
I will continue my time in the word and time in prayer, asking God to strengthen me against the temptation to be lazy.
Any time I feel the temptation to be lazy I will reflect on the gospel, and worship God for what he has done for me on the cross. I will think about how short our life really is and how much I want to do for the Lord. I will remind myself that maybe this will be my last day here on Earth.

Renewing My Actions
A. Outcome Identification
Within one week I should have a routine scheduled on paper where all my time is taken up by important things in the order that my priorities should be. I will have scheduled rest time and stick to those scheduled times instead of resting whenever I feel like it.
In two weeks my house should be organized down to the closets
Everyday this week Justin should get all his laundry done, and meals nicely prepared
Everyday this week I should spend at least ½ hr in prayer and ½ hr studying the Word (as planned into my written out schedule.

B. Action Plan
I will go to bed at a reasonable hour (by 11pm) to be able to
get up at 7am.
I will start tomorrow and everyday for a week I will write down what I am doing and how long it takes me on the essential things in my schedule. At the end of the week I should have a routine scheduled on paper. I will schedule in the periods when I will rest during the day.
I will begin by tomorrow organizing the hall coat closet, and Tuesday I will work on the bedroom closet and Wed I will do the bathroom and bedroom hall closets. Thurs and Friday I will organized the Laundry room and kitchen closet/drawers.
I will do laundry every time the hamper fills up
I will start a dinner list tomorrow morning and go to the store and reserve the time each day to make what I have planned.
I will have my core group and phone buddy keep me accountable for spending the time in the Word and prayer I will ask God everyday this week to help me be productive for Him. I will write out my schedule tonight. I ask my phone buddy to keep me accountable to sticking to my schedule.


Ephesians 5:15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

Proverbs 6:9
Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise,
7Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, 8Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest. 9How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10"A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest"-- 11Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man.

Proverbs 20:13
13Do not love sleep, or you will become poor; Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food.

Proverbs 19:15
15Laziness casts into a deep sleep, And an idle man will suffer hunger.

Proverbs 22:13 The sluggard says, "There is a lion outside; I will be killed in the streets!"

Proverbs 20:4The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, So he begs during the harvest and has nothing.

Proverbs 12:11He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, But he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.

Proverbs 10:26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, So is the lazy one to those who send him.

Proverbs 13:4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, But the soul of the diligent is made fat.

Proverbs 19:24 24The sluggard buries his hand in the dish, But will not even bring it back to his mouth.

Proverbs 15: 19The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, But the path of the upright is a highway.

Matthew 25 :14-30 Parable of the talents
26"But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.
27'Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
28'Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.'
29"For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.
30"Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Other Helpful Thoughts:
Sluggard- The Character and Cure of It
Sleeps Irresponsibly
Makes excuses
Spends time on worthless activities
Self-neglect/craves and gets nothing
A Sluggard is someone who is lazy, has no ambition, doesn’t work
Results of Laziness- hunger, lack of energy, slothful, habitually lazy
Indolent= avoiding and disliking all work
*It is easier to prevent laziness than to correct it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sara: 16 Months Old Today!

Happy 16 month birthday to our little Sara Bear!
Sara's nick names: Sara Bear, the bear, buggie boo, nugget (Kalena likes to call her "Saria" Im not sure where that came from :)
Sara is growing up so fast and we are so blessed by her beautiful little smile and deviously funny personality! She is scrumptiously squishy and kissable. Sara is always wanting to play a game (usually peek-a-boo or tickle monster), always wanting to laugh and smile, always wanting some "Yum Yumms" (something to eat), and always wanting to climb higher on top of things and open things. Everything she sees Kalena doing she tries too. She is tough, and not easily scared. Kalena often times "huggs" Sara but it is more of a tackle that sends them both to the floor and Sara usually loves it. Often throughout the day Kalena will make a noise or do something silly that will make Sara laugh. They will repeat whatever is funny hundreds of times, laughing more and more each time. Sara Loves Kalena always wants to play in the same room with her.

Another nick name of Sara's is trouble. She loves to get into all kinds of trouble whether getting stuck in a drawer, or emptying a drawer, she is always up to something. I have caught Sara ontop of many things in our house: boxes, chairs, a kids table, and recently she loves to climb inside the bathtub and play with the toys when there is no water in it. As I type she just got stuck in the laundry hamper but managed to get out without help. When we were in a hotel just this past month, I heard her crying and peeked from the bathroom to the main room where I left Sara on the Bed. Sara was on top of a fairly tall nightstand, fighting for space with a big lamp. My camera was right on the bed, and surprisingly I was able to get a pic then grab her before anyone/thing got injured :)

Sara is about 29 inches tall and weighs about 23 lbs. She wears size 4 diapers.

Sara's Favorite Foods: cereal, malt-o-meal, fruit (esp Bananas), chicken, spaghetti

Sara's favorite Books: Elmo Peek-a-Boo, Pat the Bunny, Baby's First Words

Sara can now say: Mommy, Daddy, yea, no, yumm yumm, uhh ohh, oooouuuch, boo boo, I wa (I want- we are working on changing that to "may I"), sippy, ba boo (bottle), book, shoe, ball, bubbles, apple, Mo Mo (elmo), hello? (when she picks up a cell phone), bye bye, puppy, side (meaning outside), and she says the noises for a sheep (baaa baaa), puppy (arf), Kitty (meowww), fish (blub blub?) and cow (mooo). There may be more, I feel like she says something new every day. I am positive she tried to say strawberry yesterday!

Sara has a fascination with headbands, hats and hoods. I find her often walking around the house with a headband or hat on and is is delighted when you hand her something that is clearly for her head. She gets real excited and works for a long time to get it just right on her head. My best head band story so far is from today. I was in the hardware store looking at the vacuums. I knew the girls were right at my feet but I hadn't glanced at them in a couple minuets. When I looked down, Sara had ripped open a plastic bag containing a small vacuum belt (I guess that was what it was.. rubber) and had put it on her head like a headband. It was a perfect fit! She was very pleased with herself :)

Sara is a snuggle bear! She loves to cuddle. Our bed time routine is so sweet and one of my favorite parts of the day. We get into the rocking chair with a bottle and/or book and rock and cuddle. Then I lay her in her crib. Sara usually doesn't cry at bedtime, she just lays down, sucks her thumb and looks up at me. I rub her head, belly and legs for several minuets (usually i give her little legs a squeeze to make her giggle, she is extremely ticklish), then say "night night Sara, I love you." She is asleep within minuets.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sweet Kalena, a Look Back at the Second Year

We can't believe that Kalena is almost 3!! Kalena is growing up to be such a thoughtful and wonderful girl. We love her more and more every day and are so blessed by her sweet presence. We pray that God will bless her life and cause her to be drawn to Himself.

Kalena's Nick Names: Nay Nay, Lena Bear, Laniers

Kalena's Favorite Foods: cheese quesadilla, apples and peanut butter, Honey Bunches of Oats with Peaches, cookies and fruit roll ups

Kalena's Favorite Books: Goodnight Sweet Butterflies, Goodnight Moon, The Tooth Book, Apples Up on Top, any books with Elmo, and a kid's anatomy and physiology book.

Kalena's Favorite Names for the New Baby: Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Shennelle

Kalena's Favorite things to do: Puzzles, make cookies with daddy, play in any kind of sand, mud, or rocks, swim (although she won't put her head under yet), read books, play games and just recently she learned how to draw pictures using the mouse on the computer with the Mac "Kid Pics" program. She also loves to watch videos on Justin's I-touch or the computer (Elmo, Veggietails, Kid Songs or Wiggles)

Kalena's budding vocabulary has given us so much laughter and has added a surprise element to each day for the past year. We are always wondering what she is going to say next. Some of our favorite phases over the past year have been:
When Kalena was learning to use words like: probably, hopefully, maybe, etc. She would use them randomly and incorrectly. It was so fun. Example: "Kalena, what cereal would you like for breakfast this morning?" "Umm hopefully I would like some Cheerios" or "Mommy, probably I would like to go outside and play." She just stuck big words in wherever she wanted to and it was hilarious!
The "in case"/ "I guess" phase. For a while Kalena continued to mix these two phrases up.
Kalena is still refusing to say "May I" or "Can I"... it is always "May can I..."
Kalena can say her "L"s but she typically doesn't unless I remind her.

These are some of my favorite Kalena quotes:
"Mommy, it is a wonderful colorful spring time day!(with extreme enthusiasm)"
While carrying a grocery bag and Kalena, she started to slide off my hip and exclaimed, "Mommy I'm dripping!"
"Mommy if you don't cuddle me for a long time then you are not being here for me" (a nightly quote)
While cuddling at bedtime,"Mommy, you are a precious girl."
Singing Jesus Loves Me "...they are week but daddys strong"
When Justin came home from work one of the first times since he has gone back to working at an office "Mommy look my daddy came home to me, he was gone a long time but he came home!"
When Justin was leaving for work "Oh mommy, are you going to miss your husband?"
"Kalena, do you want a cookie?" "Oh yes, that would be very yummy for me!"
(Kalena has been excited about her birthday for weeks, wanting a pink and purple cake. Then all of a sudden...)"Kalena, are you excited about your birthday?"
"No I don't want it to be my birthday, I want to stay this many (holding up two fingers)""Why?" "Because of the iky part. I don't want the iky part of my birthday, I don't want to be three" "What is the iky part?" "When I have to get shots from the doctor." (she remembered that she had to get shots on her birthday because back in May Sara got shots on her birthday)

Kalena and Sara have a developing friendship that is so sweet. However, when Sara learned to crawl, Kalena had a game she called "Smashing Sara". Sara would get on all fours to crawl and Kalena would put both hands on her back and say "Smash" and push Sara to the ground again. I quickly put a stop to the game but only because it wasn't nice... Sara didn't seem to mind at all. Now that Sara is walking, the two chase each other around the house saying "Boo" and Kalena tickles Sara. They both think it is hilarious. Many days are filled with the two doing something silly and giggling together. It is precious! They are learning how to share toys which is fun to see but challenging at times. Kalena loves Sara so much and is always helping me take care of her. She holds her sippy for her to take drinks, gives her crackers, cleans her messes and helps wipe her mouth. Lately she has been playing Dr. with Sara and checking her with a play stethoscope. She often imitates how I interact with Sara by saying things like "Don't cry sweet pea, it's OK I'm here with you." Several times I have caught Kalena holding Sara's hand in their car seats while Sara sleeps. When we were camping this summer, they fell asleep together with Kalena's arm around Sara. Kalena is a great big sister already!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

When People Leave the Church -by Pastor Joshua Ritchie

When A Member Leaves The Church- by Pastor Joshua Ritchie
There are few things that I find to be more painful than a church member leaving. I have tried to learn how to cope with this over the years of ministry but I still find that I don't handle this well. Depending on the reason for their leaving my response will vary.

If the person or family moves away, for this reason, it always seems to hurt a little bit less. Oftentimes the move is related to a job change. Nevertheless, the pain of knowing that someone you love/have discipled will not be around as much is still hard to bear with.

As a pastor, I've often agonized over people leaving the church for this reason because I want them to be plugged into a great church wherever they go. But some Christians will gladly take a promotion or change jobs and relocate without ever knowing if a solid church is in relatively close proximity to their new home. Then they spend the next 6 months to a year looking for a good church to be a part of, all the while their faith and spiritual growth are very limited. Knowing that this often happens makes their move painful in the heart of a pastor.

When I have friends move away and are no longer members of our church for this reason, then I take it upon myself to help them find a church in that area so that when they get to their new home, they'll have a place to be fed and served by God.

An unrepentant sinning believer is harder to deal with, in regards to their leaving the church. It is painful because they are giving evidence that their conversion may not be real. They are giving evidence of hypocrisy and we know that no hypocrite will have eternal life. That is what makes this situation tough to deal with. It's as if the sheep have strayed away from the flock only because they were never a sheep to begin with. Perhaps they were a goat or a wolf in sheep's clothing. We know from Matthew 18 that the good shepherd leaves the 99 sheep in order to go get the 1 that strayed. In Scripture we have the promise that the Lord will not let His sheep perish and die. He goes out to get them and brings them to repentance. The professing believer who leaves and never returns may very well be a false convert. That is a sorrowful and painful reality to deal with.

Not only that but the process of church discipline, which if it does not end in repentance on the part of the believer, may ultimately end in marking the believer as an unbeliever and removing them from fellowship. If a member leaves the church for this reason, it is painful for all, but our prayer is that the sinning person's flesh is destroyed and that their soul is saved on the day of the Lord. So while painful, we know that this step in church discipline is a good thing and intended for God's glory, the salvation of the unrepentant person and the purity of the church.

As a pastor, this is probably the area that hits me the hardest on a gut level. It oftentimes feels like a punch to the stomach. I wish it were not so.

Oftentimes, the situation goes something like this: Joe Church Member comes to the pastor and explains that he has spiritual needs that are not being met and thus must seek out a fellowship where he or his family can grow spiritually. This hurts for several reasons:

(1). I am deeply grieved that a person is either suffering or is hurting and needs help. I am in pain because my brother or sister is in pain. We should rejoice with our brothers and sisters and weep with them as well. Being part of the family of God embraces all of life, not just the good. So if we are empathetic and sympathetic towards the person who is in spiritual need, it should hurt as well.

(2). I am grieved on another level because I often feel that I have failed in some way in shepherding these people. Although no pastor can perfectly shepherd everyone in the church and therefore must train other elders to shepherd so that the entire body is growing as ministers, nevertheless, not everyone is cared for completely in every church. This simply reminds me that we are still in a sin-infected world. It makes me long for the fulfillment of the kingdom when Christ will fully satisfy every longing and need we have. I do not want to fail God's people or my God. But knowing that sin still remains in me, I am grieved when my sin and shortcomings have an averse affect on God's people. I am reminded once again that I am not perfect and fall short of the glory of Christ. That gives me great sorrow, but is intended to bring me back to the perfect work of Christ. He was a perfect pastor for me...and His grace covers that sin as well.

But the pain of a member leaving is still real and I am not always brought back to dependence on God's grace. When a member leaves for this reason, there is overwhelming and overflooding idea that enters my mind. I want to believe that it is Satanic and fleshly. The idea is this: I am not fit to be a pastor...time to throw in the towel. While part of that last statement may be true, the other half is not. No one is worthy of being a pastor and is fit to be one...at least from the sense of our depravity. Only Christ is truely fit. Nevertheless God calls sinners to life and He calls some of His children to be undershepherds. I look around and see men of God more capable, more skilled, more talented, more educated, more holy and I think..."If I were more like them surely these people would have had their needs met and wouldn't have left." And that is why I believe the thought is Satanic and sinful. It's a covetous thought...it's a faithless thought that fails to see that God's grace is greater than my sin and that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. Therefore, throwing in the towel is just not an option. The glory of God being proclaimed in the world for their eternal joy is worth living and dying for. Even with our sin and inadequacies we must press on be devoted to this great cause.

But it gives me great pain when a church member leaves for reasons like this because it exposes just how wretched I am. I am incapable of being a perfect pastor and I am envious that I am not like other pastors who seem to lead well. For that I need a Savior and I am grateful that the propitiation of Christ covers a multitude of sins.

(3). I am grieved on yet another level because the member that wants to leave fails to see that the church will always be imperfect but is still looking for some utopian congregation that does not exist. Rather than stay and continue to yield to godly instruction and find a way to contribute to the health of the church, the member leaves seeking a silver bullet or program that will finally meet their needs. When we read about the food distribution problem in Acts, we don't find the instruction to be "find a church with a better program." The counsel is this: "Church, step up and choose some godly men full of the Holy Spirit to take care of this issue." The answer isn't to look for a better congregation, but to become a better congregation and continue to grow under the teaching of the disciples.

When it comes to spiritual needs many leave their current church to try and find a church that has better small group bible studies that meet their social or age appropriate criteria. Small group bible studies have turned into affinity groups within the American church. People form small group bible studies either around hobbies and likes, or social interactions like youth, married and seniors, or they form groups based on struggles with sin (divorcees, struggling marriages, drug addiction, etc). When was the last time you saw a home Bible study with seniors, middle-aged people, teenagers and college age adults? There is certainly nothing wrong with finding things in common with our brothers and sisters in Christ and offering help when sin arises, but our fellowship, connection and unity should be around Christ and the gospel, not sin or sports or social status. We are not the world! They gather and create unity around things that are not spiritual. As God's people our gathering and unity is in Christ not something phsyical or social or political.

So when a person wants to leave a church in order to find a church or group that they have more in common with on an outward level in order that their spiritual needs might be better met, it seems to me to be counter to the point of the gospel.

In the end, when people leave the church for whatever reason, when all the smoke clears, and brothers and sisters part ways, when all is said and done, I am left with my Christ. I still have my true and great treasure. When I see what I have, although pain, frustration, confusion and doubt abound in my mind and in the cirumstance, I am still compelled to tell others about Him. And in looking at Him, my pain is eventually turned back into joy. I wish it happened more quickly than it does, but it invariably happens.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Alameda County Fair

On the recommendation from a friend, we spent our first Saturday up in NorCal at the Alameda County Fair! It was really fun, and the girls really enjoyed getting out. It was great to spend some time as a family and just have a nice day together.

Click the picture to see a gallery of the day!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009